Does Muscle Mass Affect Blood Pressure Readings?


Blood pressure is necessary for life. Without it, blood wouldn’t circulate through our bodies. The problem is when blood pressure gets too high. High blood pressure can lead to a stroke or coronary heart disease. You need to find ways to keep your blood pressure down. One of those ways may be packing on more muscles.

What Is High Blood Pressure?

Normal blood pressure readings should be less than 120/80. Borderline high readings would be considered 120-139/80-89. High blood pressure is considered anything higher than 140/90.

Risk Factors

A number of things can be risk factors for high blood pressure. You won’t have any control over age, race and family history, but there are factors you can control. These would include being overweight or sedentary, using tobacco, eating too much sodium, eating too little potassium, having too little vitamin D, drinking too much alcohol, having too much stress in your life and having certain chronic conditions like high cholesterol, diabetes, kidney disease and sleep apnea.

Early Studies

Previous studies have linked lean body mass with high blood pressure. However, it is now believed that previous studies did not look at fat to see if increased levels hindered blood pressure drops. Fat secretes angiotensin which makes angiotensin II, a vasoconstrictor that directs the kidneys to absorb more sodium. If the body holds onto sodium, it is harder for blood pressure to fall.

Medical College of Georgia Study

A 2004 Medical College of Georgia study found that having more muscle mass helps people regulate their blood pressure. Said Dr. Gregory Harshfield in a Science News interview, “Fitness facilitates the ability to regulate blood pressure; fatness impedes your ability to regulate blood pressure through your ability to regulate sodium.” Dr. Harshfield is a hypertension researcher and second author of the study in the November 2004 issue of the American Journal of Hypertension. The Medical College of Georgia study looked at 127 young adults and found that stress caused blood pressure to rise, but for fit individuals, it came down quickly afterwards. The Medical College of Georgia study found that fit people could excrete sodium better, which is the primary way of lowering blood pressure.

How the Study Worked

Researchers measured the blood pressure of participants every 15 minutes during a two-hour time baseline time, then for an hour of video game playing and a two-hour recovery time. “They found that while blood pressure increased an appropriate average of 5 percent in response to the stress of video games, participants who had more lean muscle mass than fat were better able to return to normal levels through this sodium excretion process called natriuresis,” the study found.

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